By Rich Levine
Okay, so Year One's a bust.
We now know that for sure.
In a way, it doesn't come as much of a surprise. I mean, we've been unimpressed by John Lackey for the better part of the last six months.
That's not to say Lackey's been awful. In fact, it's a stretch to even say that he's been bad. But, in his first season with the Sox, it goes without saying that Lackey's been average. He's had a few memorable starts like the near no-hitter in Seattle but he's never allowed us to build any consistent trust or confidence that he'll come through. He's found pockets of success, but never sustained it. He's just sort of rolled along. Not bad. Not great. Just average.
That's OK when you're Scott Atchison. Not when you're on the hook for high eight figures.
But much like last year's Celtics, with Lackey, we never felt comfortable rushing to judgment. Despite all his early-season inconsistency, we always held onto the fact that he was brought here to win in late AugustSeptember (and hopefully October). He was Schilling-lite. It didn't matter what he pitched like over the first few months if Lackey was winning meaningful games at the crucial moments, then all would be forgotten. Ridiculous amount of money well-spent.
Of course, now we can't say that. After last night's plop at the Trop, all we can say is that John Lackey's first season with the Sox is a failure.
There's no more waiting for the right time to evaluate his year, because that was it. That was the moment we'd been holding out for on the road, in prime time and Lackey with the ball and the Sox season in his hand.
That was his shot, and he didn't take it.
The funny thing is, as usual, Lackey didn't even pitch that poorly. He threw five solid innings against a very good line-up, had one rough inning and lost the game. He wasn't bad; he just wasn't good enough.
And he wasn't alone. Where was his offense, you wonder? Wasn't this more than only an important game for Lackey? Wasn't everyone's season on the line? Where's the criticism for David Ortiz and J.D. Drew going a combined 0-for-8? Or Boston's No. 1-5 batters going a combined 3-for-20? Isn't James Shields having a rockier year than Lackey? Why couldn't the Boston bats step up?
Fair questions. No doubt that everyone in the lineup (which only scored a total of nine runs in three games) deserves some heat, but when you bring in a guy for the money that the Sox did John Lackey, it's also fair to assume that when the season's on the line, three runs is enough. It doesn't matter if you're playing the '27 Yankees (which shouldn't be bad now, since they're all dead), a top pitcher in a playoff atmosphere needs that W.
Maybe you're a little more flexible if the guy has a body of work (in a Sox uniform) that you can look back on and stay optimistic, but because Lackey never truly fulfilled our expectations during the season's earlier months, he had everything riding on the home stretch. It wouldn't be enough to just pitch okay. He needed to be great. That was his penance. That's how he'd earn everyone's admiration, and really earn that cool 18 million check.
Well, maybe next year. For now, all Lackey's earned is a Nation full of concerned fans, half hoping that their 82 miilion man will turn it around next yearhalf terrified of where this team will be if he doesn't.